Trent Richardson is gone.
When Jimmy Haslem bought the Cleveland Browns in 2012, there was a suspicion that the team would soon be overhauled. It started in the front office, as Haslem fired head coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert. He then hired Mike Lombardi as the new GM. Many expected Lombardi to make serious changes the team, but few knew exactly what they would be.
Step one: trade Trent Richardson. Richardson was a top-five pick for Cleveland, so the trade basically asserts that the old guard made a very poor decision. They will get a first-round pick in return, but because Richardson was a first-round pick himself, the move still suggests they believe Richardson was a poor pick.
Step two would seem to be benching Brandon Weeden, and there are reports that he will not be starting this weekend. Instead, Brian Hoyer will start. Expect Weeden to be out of a job after this season. To trade a top pick after less than two years and bench what was supposed to be the QB of the future is a clear statement to the fans and the NFL: “we’re starting over.”
Starting over may be exactly what’s needed. The Browns have not made the playoffs in over a decade, and are already 0-2 this season. However, Richardson would seem to many as an odd choice to target. He had a monster first year with over a thousand yards, something rare for a rookie. But ultimately, the new front office clearly felt that investing in running backs is not a smart move in a passing NFL.
The decision to move Richardson means they believe they can replace him relatively easily and that running backs are not of major concern.
It may seem like a poor move now, but having two early picks in the draft will speed up a rebuilding process. Not only does the trade of Richardson give them another pick, but it also makes it likely they will be worse this year and have a higher pick than would otherwise be expected. On the flip side, it also signals little desire to do well this season. That should, and probably does anger many Browns fans, even though it will help the team long-term.
Regardless of whether or not the trade is a good one, the Browns’ front office just stated loud and clear that a new regime is in town and no one is safe.